In this column, Ann Wilder gets right to the flavor of the topic, so . . . . . be sure to take exacting notes! With no further adieu, we turn the mike to Ann. You're on Ann . . . . .
Sweet Spices For Savory Dishes
Allspice, a useful but much neglected spice, could be of particular
interest to us in the barbecue industry. It's flavor and aroma marries
well with meat and with other spices, The sweet peppery flavor [See Tellicherry Peppercorns in The Store] of allspice
combines particularly well with chili peppers and creates a wonderful
sweet, hot flavor. Allspice is the native of the New World and was unknown
elsewhere unfit the Spanish introduced it to Europe in the 16th Century.
It is now used in cuisines the world over. It was not an original
ingredient of curry, but it is often found in curry recipes today, and it
is used extensively in Mid-Eastern spice mixtures such as Raz el Hanout.
[See Chili Seasonings in The Barbecue Store]
Although we are most familiar with allspice as an ingredient for sweet
dishes, it is a useful addition to savory foods. In the Mid-East, it is
almost always used in savory dishes. In northern and eastern Europe, it is
an essential ingredient in pickling and preserving meat. Allspice is the
secret ingredient in Jerk seasoning. [See Jerk Seasoning in The Barbecue Store] It tempers the Scotch bonnet chilies
and brings the sweet and hot flavors into balance. It is used throughout
the Mediterranean to sweeten bitter vegetables and balance the acidity of
tomato sauces. In the Caribbean, allspice berries are thrown in the fire
for a richer smoked flavor. The Benedictine monks flavored their famous
Chartreuse liqueur with allspice. Allspice and cloves perform the same
function in dishes; therefore, for a mild clove flavor, substitute allspice
It is one of the ironies of history that in an age of exploration for
spices and gold, Columbus sailed past one of the richest spice treasures in
the western hemisphere. Today, as when Columbus sailed through the
Caribbean islands, allspice trees grow in dark shiny forests. From late
April into October, the trees are covered with berries in various stages of
ripeness. It was apparently at this stage, the Spanish finally discovered
them. [See Spices in The Barbecue Store]
They must have believed them to be peppers, and they do look like large
peppercorns. [See Tellicherry Peppercorns in The Store] They named them spice pimento. The botanist named the tree
Pimenta officinalist. In Jamaica, the name pimento still clings to it. It
should not be confused with pimiento, the Spanish name for chilies and
Allspice played an important part during the days of the pirates. They
used allspice to preserve meat, mostly pork. Meat cured, smoked, and
seasoned with allspice, was called Bucan, from the French 'very boucaner,'
for cured or barbecued. The pirates who were dependent on this meat were
called Buccaneers . . . which eventually evolved into the familiar word
Whole allspice is the dried unripened, but mature berries from an evergreen
tree. The berries are dark reddish or purplish brown. The aroma is very
fragrant, similar to clove, and the pungent aromatic flavor suggests a
blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and pepper, hence its name allspice. The
best berries are grown in Jamaica, which produces most of the world's supply.
Allspice trees have been introduced into the tropical regions around the
world, but have failed to flourish. Mexico does have a commercial allspice
industry, as does Indonesia. Mexican allspice is larger than Jamaican, but
much less flavorful Jamaican allspice contains up to 4.5% volatile oil.
Allspice from Mexico and Indonesia have only half as much essential oil.
Because the oil content in Jamaican allspice is so high, the flavor is
rounder, warmer, more spice, fuller bodied, slightly pungent and peppery
with a fruity cinnamon clove-like flavor, and has an astringent
after-taste. In short, a more complex flavor.
Use whole spices whenever possible and grind them fresh. As soon as
allspice is ground, it begins to lose flavor and aroma. About half the
flavor will have dissipated within three months. A pepper mill works well
for small amounts and small amounts is what one usually needs. Allspice
should be used carefully. It is very potent. An 1/8th of a teaspoon of
ground allspice is sufficient to flavor I qt. of soup, stock, or marinade.
In sausage seasoning and other commercial spice mixtures, 1/3 of an ounce
will season 25 to 50 lbs. of meat. If larger amounts are needed, buy from
the best spice house with the freshest possible ground allspice.
Copyright (c) 2007, by:
Ann D. Wilder, President
VANN Spices, Ltd.
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